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CPS to hold school budgets harmless but won’t say how

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Chicago Public Schools, projected to lose about another 8,000 students since last fall, told schools Monday they wouldn’t lose any local funding even if enrollments fall short of summer projections.

However, since CPS can’t change the rules for state and federal funds tied to enrollment, some schools that lose a large number of students, especially low-income students, still could see their budgets decline.

Late Monday, CPS officials said that schools where enrollment rose will see an additional $19.6 million in local funding. The hold harmless will cost CPS about $35.1 million. Federal and state money linked to enrollment is expected to decline about $1.9 million. The district has promised help to “minimize any disruption” stemming from those losses.

CEO Forrest Claypool wouldn’t say where the extra money would come from.

The district uses a “student-based” budget in which a fixed sum of money is allocated to schools for each student enrolled. And enrollment is officially counted on the 20th day of school, which this year falls on Oct. 2. Layoffs also typically occur after that count in schools where fewer students than expected show up.

CPS also took an unofficial count on the 10th day of classes, last Monday, so schools get a sense of where they stand, and said preliminary enrollment was about 200 lower than previously believed in its K-12 district-run schools.

“We have heard from so many of you that stability for planning is crucial to having the strongest possible school year,” read the letter to principals signed by Claypool and chief education officer Janice Jackson. “We hope that this one-time hold harmless effort provides your schools with much needed certainty for this school year and gives you time to plan for next year.”

School-by-school figures weren’t immediately available.